Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Pregame: Jackets At Maple Leafs

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Jackets face a critical opponent in Toronto tonight as they battle the Maple Leafs (Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs tickets remain available.) Tonight marks the first of back-to-back games for the Jackets, as they face Dallas tomorrow back on home ice. The Jackets currently sit three points out of a Wild Card spot and four points out of the third and final Metropolitan Division playoff spot, making these next two games critically important for the club as they enter the playoff stretch.

Toronto occupies the first Eastern Conference Wild Card Spot, with 72 points, while the Jackets are outside looking in with 65 points. The final Wild Card spot is held by Detroit with 68 points, and the third Metropolitan Division spot is held by the New York  Rangers with 69 points. The Rangers do not play until Wednesday, and the Jackets have four possible points they could pick up before then. So, if the Jackets win in Toronto tonight and at home against Dallas tomorrow, they could tie the Rangers for points. NYR would still have the third spot, since they have the greater number of games won excluding games won in shootout, but it would put the Jackets in a much better position than they are in now.

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight’s game is the third game between Toronto and Columbus this season. The Jackets won both of the first two meetings 5-2 and 6-0. They look to repeat wins against the Leafs tonight and extend on their win from Saturday against Florida, a 6-3 victory in favor of Columbus.

Since today is the first of back-to-back games for Columbus, it is likely that the team will split goaltending duties between Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney. These games, however, are arguably some of the most important games for Columbus this season, so it is possible that the coaching staff will choose to go with Bob in net both nights. Regardless, I predict we will see Bob in net in Toronto tonight. If they have to go with a backup goaltender, it’s better to have him play at home against the Stars than on the road against the Leafs, so I predict Bob will get the nod to start off the night tonight.

This game is a must-win for the Jackets, and arguably a must-win for the Leafs as well, as both teams need to string together some wins if they hope to crack their Division top three. It should be quite the battle in Toronto tonight, here’s hoping it’s a good one! Go Jackets!

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